A guide for anxious autistics
Going outside can be scary when you’re anxious and autistic. For many of us, there’s just too much of everything. It’s noisy and busy and there’s not much we can do about it to make that stop.
However, here is a little collection of things that have made it easier for me personally to leave the house sensory-wise, and I hope you may find it helpful too.
Be brave, you can do it <3
Block noise out totally:
- Wear ear defenders or noise cancelling headphones. You can easily find a good pair of these on places like Amazon, where there’s extensive reviews. Often for ear defenders on Amazon, there are other autistics leaving reviews too. There’s so many styles of adult ear defenders you can find too! Some of my other autistic and ADHD friends also swear by using Apple airpods everytime they go outside, as they block out the noise and are discreet. However I know these are so expensive, so again cheaper places like Amazon, aliexpress or ebay can sell imitation versions of these, if you don’t like entirely blocking out noises around you but want to dampen it.
Don’t like all noise to be blocked completely?:
- For me, I get a bit freaked out when I can’t hear anything around me at all. So I use these little earbuds called ‘Shade’ by Flare Audio (not sponsored!). They are incredible at how they block out sound, but at the same time you can hear someone talking to you, and the most ‘important noises’ like a car nearby, but only at 10% of the normal volume. Sometimes I use these even at home when everything is just too much. Flare Audio also have some other earbuds that allow sound through, called ‘Calmer’, but they filter the decibels of stressful sounds like cars, car horns, bicycles and busy environments through the clever technology of how they’re shaped to the inside of your ear! Very cool.
If you want to wear headphones or earphones, I can tell you that sometimes it helps me to listen to music/audiobooks/podcasts; or before I leave, I have a playlist ready that I’ve made full of comforting and/or empowering songs. For me I find it’s best to have calming songs. I personally recommend ‘Kno piano music’ – they do soft calming piano covers of Studio Ghibli theme songs which are already calm and soothing, including Disney and Zelda. Some songs, they have additional versions where they add soft rain in the background or quiet night time bird sounds. These are the only songs that help me with sensory overload too. You can find them on iTunes and Youtube!
- Bring keyrings and sensory toys for stimming and comfort. Embrace stimming in public – there is nothing to be ashamed of! Allistic people stim too just like us but in different ways, using sensory toys or fidget toys is the exact same but we do it in our own way, and that’s okay! If you’re looking for any sensory toys, there’s many different types, colours, sizes etc on places like ebay and etsy, but they’re definitely cheaper on ebay.
Bringing you back down:
- Set self reassuring quotes or photos of someone you love/a pet/a happy memory as your lock screen if you need grounding. Sometimes I would set my background as a pretty quote picture of “you’ll be okay” to ground me, or a picture of my cat as she’s my special interest and makes me feel gooey inside. Never underestimate the power of looking at your phone background in times of anxiety outside, it can sometimes work to quickly gather yourself to distract you and pull you out of a spiral.
- Keep nice notes from friends or family in your phone case. Get them out if you’re outside and waiting and looking around is too visually overstimulating. Reading a note can be discreet if you feel self conscious, it can look like a shopping list etc but really its some cute or encouraging words from someone you love.
Wear badges or pins that communicate your needs to people around you. There are so many to choose from on etsy! Lots of small businesses make these and they’re really helpful, whilst your money goes to a small business, so it’s a win-win! I personally use pins that say “Hi, I’m autistic, not rude”, “Don’t touch me I’m autistic”. I also wear a sunflower lanyard to signal I have invisible disabilities (not just for being autistic, mostly my physical disabilities, but many wear these only for autism too!).
Also if you’re non-speaking, it could be useful to have a badge or pin that states “I’m autistic and I don’t speak, please be patient” so that others know to be patient while you use your AAC or text-to-speech apps on your phone etc. Sadly, we just don’t have enough awareness so some people will be confused why you approach them and start to type on your phone. Badges can help this as they’ll see them on your clothes or lanyard whilst you type. This personally helps me with my anxiety when people get too close to me, wearing badges that tell people to stay back.
When you get home:
Rest and recharge. Take care of your autistic needs: stim, watch a relaxing nature documentary or your favourite comfort show or movie. Or maybe play your favourite video game to decompress. Grab a hot drink (if you like them) and a snack. Crunchy snacks are really good for me as the sensory feeling of the crunch in my mouth helps regulate my anxiety/anger!
I want you to keep in mind that we are all different from one another and no two autistics are the same, so if these suggestions don’t work for you, please don’t fret or worry. These are the basic things that we usually have to try out and then adjust and tweak to fit our own unique selves.
Don’t be ashamed to do what you need to do. And please remember melting down doesn’t make you a bad person – it doesn’t matter how many meltdowns nor shutdowns you have, it doesn’t matter how big and loud your meltdowns are, you are not a bad person, you are not embarrassing, nor a burden, nor less deserving of love and respect. You deserve to have your needs met. <3